10 Great (and Affordable) Gifts for Backpackers
I don't work in retail. But if I did, I would be the pushy, highly-opinionated guy in the travel and outdoors section who imposes his point of view and insists that you only take his recommendation. Some people love that guy. Most people hate him. But for better or worse, here are my top 10 best gifts for a backpacker in no particular order.
This travel hammock packs down to the size of a softball and is awesome. It is made of that good, cool nylon that breathes and stays cool on a hot day. Backpackers who don’t travel with a hammock need to seriously reconsider their packing list. Some people may say, “You don’t need to purchase something this high quality.” Well, actually, you do. This is the type of product you purchase once, take care of, and use for the rest of your life.
Cost: $50 to 60 bucks
Important note: You will also need to purchase the ENO SlapStraps. They cost an extra $20 or so, but are absolutely necessary.
This is single-handedly the best toiletry bag on the planet. You need not look at any other bag on the market as you will be wasting your time. Whatever toiletry bag your backpacker friend is using at the moment, getting them this bag will absolutely be an upgrade. I’m not even going to get into everything it can do because describing it will not do it justice. Click on the photo to see all the specs. Just get them this bag and move on.
Cost: $25 to $30 bucks
Just look at this thing with those two pretty little USB chargers on the side, plus 3 outlets. For backpackers traveling with electronics, this is perfect for those hostel rooms where you get maybe one outlet to yourself, yet you need to charge your phone, computer, and iPad all at once. Plus it’s a surge protector. Plus the primary plug rotates to make room for other people’s bulky outlets or accommodate a tight squeeze.
Cost: $10 to $20 bucks
These bags are marketed as space savers. Whatever. What these bags are good for is keeping your putrid socks, your 10-day old jeans, and your underwear, which is on its third use, from infecting your clean clothes. It’s just a laundry bag. But it keeps those smelly clothes airtight so that the only time you have to smell them is during that uncomfortable three-minute period when the laundry lady is sorting through or weighing them. They come in various sizes. I suggest grabbing a variety pack.
Cost: $5 to $15 bucks
Moleskine is the most practical pocket notebook out there. Accept no substitutes. It fits in your pocket. You can beat the hell out of it. The paper is high quality and doesn’t ruffle up with use. But shop with caution! There are a lot of Moleskine products out there. You want the one that is 3 ½” x 5 ½” with a hard cover and 192 plain pages.
Cost: $5 to $15 bucks
The Petzl Tikka XP2 Headlamp is the one you want. Not some other model. Not some other brand. This is the only one to consider. Why? Here are three reasons: (1) it has a maximum output of 60 lumens (60 fucking lumens!) projecting a beam out to over 65 yards; (2) it will stay on for 160 hours from just 3 AAA batteries; and (3) it weighs only 3.1 ounces including batteries. Yes, it’s more expensive than the other headlamps. Yes, you can find similar models and similar brands. All that doesn’t matter. Get this one. Trust me.
Cost: $50 to $60 bucks
I'm not even going to begin to talk about travel cameras as there are so many great options on the market. But every traveler needs this. It secures your point-and-shoot camera to just about any surface. It is small enough to fit in your daypack and is essential for those awesome group shots that you want everyone in. Or for those times you're on your own, wondering some deserted paradise and you want to document that you were actually there by taking a photo from further than arms-length away.
Cost: $12 to $17 bucks
Many clothing designers try, but Scottevest is the only one that gets it right. They make high-quality, well thought-out clothing items for backpackers that have an overabundance of hidden pockets. The hoodie, in my opinion, is the superior product offering, but everything they have is high-quality and will be appreciated by your backpacker friend.
Cost: $20 to $200 bucks
Look. Your backpacker friend probably already has a travel towel. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need another one. The travel towel is the item I lose most frequently while on the road. When you buy it, do us all a favor and get your friend the large or extra large-sized towel so that they can fit it all the way around their body. Nothing is worse than that guy who walks into a full dorm room with a towel that barely covers his ass.
Cost: $20 to $30 bucks
My “Super-Lock Pick of the Year” award goes to Vibram FiveFingers KSO. I bought my first pair over 5 years ago and absolutely love them! You can walk, run, or swim in them. They dry quickly. They are treated with an anti-fungal so they don’t stink once dried. And, they are light and don’t take up much space in your bag. Sizing can be a bit tricky. If you are buying them as a gift, I’d suggest getting them at a store where your backpacker friend can swap them out for one that is the proper size and color.
Cost: $80 to $90 bucks (and worth every penny)